P.A.M.E.L.A. is a first person open world survival game with a day-night cycle set in the utopian city of Eden. You wake up from cryogenic sleep and find yourself completely lost with no idea of what’s going on and the only thing you have with you is your AARM. The question is, how long can you survive?
STATUS: EARLY ACCESS
DEVELOPER: NVYVE® Studios
PUBLISHER: NVYVE® Studios
RELEASE DATE: 9th of March, 2017
GENRE: FIRST PERSON SURVIVAL
Before anything else I must say that, right now, the loading screens take a long time, usually taking at the very least nine minutes, and even though the game only has one loading screen, I think this is a bit too much. Personally I wouldn’t really mind this if the game didn’t have more problems but, despite the frame rate being rather stable, after toning down the graphics settings a little bit, I still occasionally get a fair amount of stutter, which I assume is the game loading some assets in the background, but considering the already long loading time I’d have hoped that this wouldn’t happen.
With that said, the game also has its fair share of annoying bugs but I think that the worst of them all is that your equipped items vanish after reloading the game. Besides that, inventory management tends to get buggy every now and then, with items not properly staying in one place when you attempt to drag them there. One other bug I’ve found is that, sometimes, after enemies die they still make noises as if they were alive, which tends to be a bit annoying because you don’t know if you’re hearing another living enemy. Lastly, although rare, the interface tends to bug out in a way that, even if you try to close it, it will stay up in front of you.
In regards to the actual gameplay itself, as I’ve already mentioned, P.A.M.E.L.A. is a survival game in the strictest sense, with no real clear goal for the player except to survive for as long as possible. In order to do that you’ll have to find loot, which there’s plenty of from the get-go and, with that in mind, with me being the loot hoarder that I am, I would’ve liked to see a bigger inventory without having to upgrade it as I’ve found myself repeatedly trying to figure out what to get rid of next in order to make room for other items. In any case, most of those times I’d just end up consuming food or drinks which, at the same time, helped me get rid of my thirst and hunger.
By pressing TAB you open up your AARM interface, from which you can access various menus by scrolling up and down such as inventory, datapad and skill tree. I find it particularly amusing how the inventory and navigating system were designed in a way that you can use your mouse to rotate your view in order to see more of the interface that is being projected through the device on your arm while, at the same time, you can still walk around without feeling constrained in terms of movement. Speaking of which, the movement in the game has a lot of momentum to it. You won’t start moving as soon as you press an assigned movement key and strafing makes your head tilt sideways, which I’m really fond of. Still, jumping doesn’t really work like it should and it’s mostly used to dodge enemy attacks.
From your inventory you can access plenty of different equipment slots that you can fill with different things, such as utility gadgets and flashlight upgrades with passive bonuses, armour, different weapons and abilities that you can acquire via your P.A.M.E.L.A. skill tree, by finding them in the city. Items can have the same name and appearance but still differ in tier, meaning that some are more effective than others, such as weapons, armour, canteens or medical items. Even though you can’t currently sell any of the things you don’t need, and therefore there’s no use for the junk you find, you can still use vending machines where you can buy items using Lux, the game’s currency.
As far as combat goes it’s kind of a mixed bag. Sometimes it feels extremely clunky while at other times it just feels completely fine. You have two different attacks that you can do, one being a more slash-like attack and the other one being a charge with your right hand. With that said, you can equip two different weapons at the same time without having to switch between them in the inventory. In the same sense, you can also use ranged weapons but nothing like actual military grade equipment, it’s the sort of weapons you’d expect security forces to have in an utopian environment such as the one in Eden. In any case, the combat actions do seem pretty well animated, especially the shield animation.
Visually the game looks stunning, and the lighting is exceptionally pretty well done, especially in dark areas where illumination is scarce. On that note, P.A.M.E.L.A. is probably one of the few survival games that incorporates energy management in a way that it doesn’t feel off with the game world and story. Eden is prepared to harvest energy even after catastrophic events so you can find various terminals in which you can increase or decrease energy distribution in a district. This allows you to get the vending machines up and running, turn on the main lights or the emergency lights, which tends to be really useful, especially at night. With that said, these are not permanent since the district’s energy supply will eventually run out and you’ll have to wait before it fills up again. However, there are ways to increase energy efficiency but I find the constant struggle with the dark environments to really add up to the game’s atmosphere and I think this is really well done.
On that note, Eden is an enormous city composed of several districts which you can explore, each representing a specific role in this utopian setting, from the common residential areas to the garrison filled with security gear. During the day the clean city look reminds me a lot of Mirror’s Edge with a dark twist and at night there’s some sort of System Shock or Dead Space vibe going on. While the game doesn’t really have a story per se, you can find various text and voice logs that provide some sort of background to the events that led to the fall of Eden. Considering that the map is rather big, I honestly don’t see a point in building a base at the moment, since you’ll often need to go find new things or materials in order to maintain your base, but I can see that in the late game it might be vital to grow your own food and have a place where you can store everything you find.
Despite the fact that when you die you lose all your items, the game does have some sort of permanent progression system. When you die you’ll receive experience points based on your performance and, upon leveling up, you’ll gain Genome Points which you can use to purchase permanent upgrades for your character. Right afterwards, you’ll also be able to choose from one out of six different spawn points in different areas of the map, but before you can use them you must first unlock them.
One huge complaint I do have is that most of the time the game has no music at all, and this is a shame because the few tracks that are already in the game are pretty good. In the end, most of the time you’ll spend walking around you won’t hear anything except for sound effects, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as it does add to the immersion factor.
In the end P.A.M.E.L.A. has a lot of potential. It has the looks, it has an amazing and beautiful world and the mechanics that are currently in place fit nicely. Besides that, from things such as the hacking mini-game to the multitude of weapons, the creepy decaying citizens, the post apocalyptic utopian setting and the huge city of Eden to explore I think this game has everything it needs to become great. The game has just come out on Early Access but it has already received a fair amount of patches and fixes, which leaves me inclined to say that the developers are committed to fixing the bugs, the performance issues and polishing the entire experience as a whole.
All in all, no matter how much potential I see in the game and how much I like it, the game has too many frustrating issues right now that harm the experience as a whole and, with that in mind, I’d say that if this game interests you, you should probably wait until it matures a little bit more.